architecture · design · environment · health

Building a smoother ride to recover

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...
Understanding environmental impacts like vibration can have a positive affect on patient recovery. Image via Wikipedia

I happened upon this tweet today:

@AIASeattle Did you know floor vibrations can affect patient outcomes?

Um, why no, no I didn’t. So I dug around a little bit and affirmed that, in fact, structural vibrations can in fact have an impact on patient recovery:

“Noticeable vibration leads many to fear structural collapse, although such fear is unwarranted in most cases because of the small displacements and stresses produced. Noticeable vibration is nevertheless undesirable in many occupancies because of its adverse psychological effect…It has been observed that continuous vertical floor oscillation becomes distinctly perceptible to people when peak acceleration reaches approximately 0.5 per cent g, where g is the acceleration due to gravity. People in residential, office and school occupancies do not like to feel distinct continuous vibration…

Continuous vibrations, defined here as vibrations lasting more than about 10 cycles, can arise from the periodic forces of machinery, from certain human activities such as dancing, or from vehicle traffic nearby. They can be considerably amplified when the periodic forces causing vibration are synchronized with a natural frequency of the structure – a phenomenon called resonance.”

Not only is shaking a problem, but there is also more and more research coming out that discusses the effects of the overall environment on a care-givers’ professional performance as well as a patient’s healing process:

“In a review of more than 600 articles, researchers found that there was a link between the physical environment (i.e., single-bed or multiple-bed patient rooms) and patient (e.g., fewer adverse events and better health care quality) and staff outcomes (e.g., reduced stress and fatigue and increased effectiveness in delivering care).

“There have been five other significant reviews of the literature relating to the physical environment and patient outcomes. Nelson and colleagues10 identified the need to reduce noise pollution and enhance factors that can shorten a patient’s length of stay (e.g., natural lighting, care in new/remodeled units, and access to music and views of nature); according to their study, patients can benefit from the skillful utilization of music and artwork. Ulrich and colleagues7 found research that demonstrated that the design of a hospital can significantly improve patient safety by decreasing health care associated infections and medical errors. They also found that facility design can have a direct impact on patient and staff satisfaction, a patient’s stress experience, and organization performance metrics. Three other reviews found that hospital design, particularly when single-bed rooms are employed, can enhance patient safety and create environments that are healthier for patients, families, and staff by preventing injury from falls, infections, and medical errors; minimizing environmental stressors associated with noise and inefficient room and unit layout; and using nature, color, light, and sound to control potential stressors.11–13

The Seattle branch of the AIA (that’s the American Institute of Architects) has hosting a talk specifically about how to design better, less drum-like floors, but is a nice indicator of how serious architects, designers, and other groups are taking this need to design and create better care facilities:

“Vibration criteria for hospital floors have become more stringent in the 2010 Edition of the Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities (the FGI Guidelines). These new vibration requirements will increase structural construction costs in Healthcare construction. Understanding vibrations sources, criteria and benefits of different structural and non-structural approaches will provide healthcare designers with effective strategies to mitigate vibration issues and minimize cost impacts of the new requirements.”

For those who live in Seattle, there is a class on December 14th, 2011.

I’ve found some great examples of designing better medical facilities, but I’d love to hear about other projects you’ve seen, experienced, or even read about. Leave a comment with your thoughts.